Bernard Olson remembered for his good heart

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In springtime, there will be an Oak Tree and a Maple Tree growing side-by-side at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

The Maple Tree was planted this fall in memory of the late Danney Krueger, who died suddenly of a cardiac arrhythmia in September. An Oak tree will be planted beside it next year. This one is for his brother, Bernard Ray Olson, 44, who died in a bowhunting accident in Fillmore County Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009.

The trees grow not only in memory of the brothers, but to commemorate that their generosity extends beyond their lives.

Olson, like his brother before him, donated his body to the University of Minnesota’s Anatomy Bequest Program to educate future health care providers.

Olson’s family remembers the man as a hard-worker and an adventurous spirit who valued his family and friends.

“He had a good heart, and a good soul. The least I can say is that I am proud to have been his sister,” Linda Stigney said.

Bernard Olson was born Jan. 30, 1965 in Austin to LaVerne “Odie” Olson and Betty (Holgate) Kruger. Bernard’s eldest sister, Dona Johnson, said his love of adventure was evident early on.

“At age 3 or 4, he had a red, toy motorcar. He snuck out onto the real road with it more than once,” she said. “You just could not stop him.”

Bernard would grow up to travel the nation, enjoy the outdoors and begin teaching himself a foreign language.

A graduate of Austin High School, Bernard had always struggled with schoolwork. In his 20s, he would order “Hooked on Phonics” books, and teach himself to read and write, in pursuit of career.

“He wanted to see the nation, and he knew he needed to learn some things first,” Johnson said.

“It is just amazing, what he taught himself… I found boxes and boxes of notebooks full of his writing.” Bernard’s niece Angela McArthur said. “Then, I found a notebook full of the same stuff in Spanish.”

Johnson said Bernard had recently begun teaching himself Spanish to communicate with a friend in Mexico.

Bernard had friends everywhere, she said. He would meet them when traveling for work. Bernard had worked for CRST International for seven years, as a semi truck driver. He was recently awarded a million-mile pin, and left the job Dec. 21 to take a job as a freight broker with a local company.

“That was one boy who had big plans,” Johnson said. “It was just time for another adventure.”

Stigney said that another one of Bernard’s everyday adventures was taking care of his nieces and nephews.

“He was very much a family man. He did not have kids, but he took everyone else’s everywhere,” Stigney recalled.

Stigney and Johnson said he took their kids to Valley Fair, out fishing, to the mall and even to Ozzfest.

McArthur, who lives near Hudson, said Bernard would call her every time he passed through. She fondly remembers meeting him often for lunch at the truck stop.

“He would eat at the salad bar — at the truck stop! And, then afterwards we would always go for a walk. He really took care of himself, ” she said. “I really loved and adored him.”

In addition to treating nieces and nephews like they were his own kids, Bernard’s sisters said he also took pride in caring for their mother.

“The only thing he wouldn’t do for her is play bingo. Now that just wasn’t his cup of tea,” Johnson said with a laugh.

Bernard had also been very close with his brothers and the rest of his family.

When Bernard wasn’t working, or spending time with his family, he was hunting and fishing.

He once took Johnson’s son on a fishing trip in Canada. During his off-time, Bernard was known to stop wherever he was to fish, hunt and meet with friends.

“I am not even sure that it was the hunting and fishing he liked so much — he just always wanted to be outside. He loved that,” Stigney said.

Johnson said that this fall, the family was sitting around talking about how nice it was to plant a tree for Danney.

“Bernard told me, ‘If you ever have to do this for me, I want an Oak Tree,’” Johnson recalled.

Johnson told him not to talk like that.

“It is so hard for all of us,” McArthur said.

“Yet, I think if he could have chosen how to die, he would have chosen for it to happen when he was out there hunting,” she continued.

“I do know that he would have wanted to be doing something he loved when his time came.”

Bernard’s tree will be added next to Danney’s this spring. They will be between the auditorium and the visitor’s center, by the boulder, at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Bernard is survived by his mother, Betty Kruger of Austin; siblings,Verne (Norma) Olson of Dexter, Richard (Gail) Olson of Laurel, Montana, Ray Olson of Duluth, Linda Stigney of Stillwater, Sylvia Wagoner of Austin, Dona (Kirk) Johnson of Stillwater, Toy Sue Mehus of Austin; sister-in-law Stephanie Krueger of Austin; and several nieces, nephews and friends.

He was preceded in death by his father LaVerne and his brothers, Kenneth Olson and Danney Krueger.

A celebration of Bernard Olson’s life will be on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 at 1 p.m. at the Ruby Rupner Auditorium in the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred. Bernard and Danney will be buried next to each other at a later date.

Each year the University of Minnesota Medical School students coordinate an interfaith memorial service to publicly recognize donors.

The service is in November of 2010. To attend, call (612) 625-1111 or e-mail bequest@umn.edu.